A few months ago, I complained that more and more online music sites have blocked access from Australia. Of course, the arcane licensing of intellectual property has also led to many other sites being blocked for Australians. Anyone living down under trying to access BBC TV via their iPlayer, or trying to stream US TV on Hulu will find themselves out of luck. The list of sites offering movies, TV shows and music online is a long one. The list of these available in Australia is a very short one.
However, I have now discovered a Canadian company offering one way out of these geographic shackles. For US$5 per month, Unblock Us will allow you to configure your computer or router so that, when you try to access a selection of media sites, your connection will pop out from a server outside Australia so as to ensure you will not be blocked from accessing the site.
But is it legal? That’s an excellent question, and one I do not know the answer to. Not being a lawyer, I will not even speculate. Where I am happy to speculate is on the question of the ethics of the site.
On Friday, a colleague said he was planning to watch a downloaded movie over the weekend. I asked him where he had downloaded it from. While he said he had bought it from the iTunes store, he did indicate that was not the only place he had downloaded movies from over the years. His philosophy was always to try obtaining movies legally first but if—and only if—all legal means failed, he would resort to shadier sources. To me, this seems like a fair approach, legal or not.
As I would be more than happy to pay the copyright holders for access to e-books, online music or videos, I find it extremely frustrating when this is impossible, simply because I am in Australia. In the absence of such legal means, loopholes like Unblock Us start to look very appealing.
There are a couple of other considerations before leaping in to using the service:
- Privacy: since your internet requests would be initiated through Unblock Us, you would have to be comfortable with them knowing about the pattern of your internet usage, although they do note on their site ” will not actively monitor user activity for inappropriate behavior, nor do we maintain direct logs of any customer’s Internet activities”.
- Performance: having the extra check for each internet request to see whether it should be bounced through Unblock Us could make your internet performance a little slower than going directly through your ISP. I do not know whether this would be significant.
I am certainly tempted.